Gustave Courbet Biography

The Meeting by Gustave Courbet © Musée Fabre, Montpellier; used with permission
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877). The Meeting, or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet, 1854. Oil on canvas. 50 3/4 x 58 5/8 in. (132 x 150.5 cm). © Musée Fabre, Montpellier

The Basics:

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter best known as one of the founders of the Realism movement during the nineteenth century. He painted a variety of subject matter, from still lifes to landscapes to figures. Because he often addressed social issues in his work, some of it was received as controversial at the time.

Early Life:

Courbet was born on June 10, 1819 in Ornans, Franche-Comté, France.

He moved to Paris in 1839 and studied the work of many well-known Spanish, Flemish and French masters.

His Art:

Courbet, along with Daumier and Millet, founded the Realism movement in which real life (seen firsthand, by the artist) was the only valid subject matter. Though he came from a prosperous farming family, Courbet felt a peasant-like manner was more in keeping with his Republican political views and became a rather rough-looking firebrand. After his "Realism" show in 1855, he gained more financial backing, but continued to preach equality. He, in fact, did some prison time for his politics. Coubet died on December 31, 1877 at age 58 in La Tour-de-Peilz (near Vevey), Switzerland. His work, however, is said to have influenced many younger artists including Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Edward Hopper.

Important Works:

  • The Stone Breakers, 1834
  • Burial at Ornans, 1849
  • The Meeting (Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet), 1854
  • The Painter's Studio: A Real Allegory Concerning Seven Years of My Artistic Life, 1854-55
  • The Origin of the World (L'Origine du monde), 1866

See pictures of Gustave Courbet's work in the Special Exhibition Gallery - Gustave Courbet.

Go to Artist Profiles: Names beginning with "C" or Artist Profiles: Main Index